Daya Varma and Vinod Mubayi


Both the Communist Party of India (CPI) and CPI (M) have joined hands to launch a Third Front to face the  coming Lok Sabha (Parliament) election to be held next month. It is called a Third Front because the First and  Second Fronts are, respectively, led by the Congress of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh and the Bharatiya  Janata Party (BJP) of the Advani-Rajnath Singh-Narendra Modi triumvirate.


In the context of India’s politics, a Third Front signifies a group that stands apart from the Congress and BJP.   However, by bringing together any one and every one regardless of their history, ideology or even program,  who, for various reasons, is opposed to the Congress or the BJP, the core parties of the Indian Left, CPI and  CPI(M), might as well be named  the Communist Party of India (Electionist), which sums up their ideological  and political bases.


Why a Third Front? And what is that  “Alternative Policy”, which the Third Front will implement? Almost all  the constituents of the Third Front have in the past been part of the alliances led by either the Congress or BJP.  CPI(M) and CPI too supported the United Progressive Alliance until they parted company with the Congress  over the Indo-US nuclear deal and voted to oppose it along with the BJP.


The proposed ‘Third Front’ is currently expected to include the AIADMK, TDP, TRS, and JD(S); their big catch  will be the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati if she decides to join them.  This possibility is real only if it  delivers her the post of the Prime Minister of India. Of course if either Congress or BJP need her, depending  upon the election outcome, and offer her this position she would be just as ready to join hands with them and  abandon the Third Front. But this can only be tested after the election. Neither Congress nor BJP will offer her  that privilege in the pre-election period. That is where CPI (Electionist) comes into the picture. For a few seats in  UP, they can and will do so.


In essence the Third Front envisioned by CPI(M) and CPI is outright opportunist. What the Third Front will or  can do can only be verified if they come to power, which at this stage seems highly unlikely. It is still a battle  between the First (Congress) and the Second (BJP) Fronts. Some feeble-minded in the Third Front might feel  that BJP is at the end of its rope and has no chance of coming to power. Hopefully the democratic and secular  populace will not have any illusion on this account and do everything to deny BJP a victory in the forthcoming  elections. Also, hopefully, there might still be sane elements within the CPI(M) and CPI, who would rather  patiently build a progressive democratic front with a clear economic and political agenda and thwart the designs  of their current leadership, which seem to be focused mostly on becoming a part of the government.


Having said this, however, given the complexities of the Indian and South Asian political scene and the world- wide economic crisis, there is one respect in which a Third Front may still end up playing a worthwhile role,  despite the opportunism of its progenitors.  The political challenge that is most acute in India is to maintain a  secular polity, while the larger problem in South Asia is for India to play a progressive and calming role in  helping to defuse the crises that have enveloped its neighbours, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.  The BJP  led front is openly communal.  The Congress presents a secular face publicly, but has tended to compromise with  communalists on occasion.  The left parties, by and large, are an avowedly secular force in Indian politics.  As  the leading force in the Third Front, they can be expected to provide a more determined challenge to any attempt  to dilute the secular nature of the Indian state, than if they were junior partners in the Congress front.  In the  South Asian crises also, especially the one developing in Pakistan, a Third Front can help somewhat in  pressuring the Indian government to follow a more independent policy less influenced by U.S. interests in the  region.

Top - Home